There are many articles that state that movement is medicine, but is this really true or should we change our perspective?
What is right about the statement?
Let’s start by discussing what is right about the statement. According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report, conditions such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dementia, depression, falls with injuries among the elderly, and breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, stomach, and lung cancer are all less common among individuals who are or become more physically active. More importantly, for some of the conditions listed above, those who are more physically active have a reduced risk of mortality, reduced risk of developing other chronic diseases or conditions, and reduced risk of progression of the disease they already have when compared to their non-active peers. The list is extensive and there is no question that regular movement is in many instances as effective as prescription medicine at managing a vast array of health conditions.
What is the problem?
There is one slight flaw in viewing movement as medicine. This flaw involves choice. Viewing movement as medicine makes movement optional. If you have a headache you have the option of taking medication to manage it, or you can choose not to. Movement is not optional. In fact it is a requirement for survival. When looking at the biology of a tree or a plant you will notice that they do not have a brain. In contrast, animals and humans do. What is one of the major differences between plants and animals? Animals generate movement. Plants move as a result of external factors out of their control. As humans we are purpose built to move. What happens when we don’t move enough? Our brain starts to reduce its activity.
The 2018 report concluded that there is strong evidence demonstrating a significant relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and higher all-cause mortality rates. Simply put, inactivity is directly associated with an increase in adverse health conditions and a shorter life-span. Exposing oneself to poison is extremely dangerous and gives no real room for negotiation. Changing our perspective and viewing inactivity as poison rather than movement as medicine raises the stakes and makes movement essential rather than optional.